Monthly Archives: April 2019

Fake News Browser Extensions

Fake news and misinformation are everywhere. It seems like every time breaking news emerges, there are also fake or misleading stories being spread right alongside the factual information (often times via social media).

What is a person to do? Well, there are some easy steps the average person can take to remain vigilant (consult the many resources available here). It is vital that everyone should learn to identify and prevent fake news, why not let something else do the work for you if that option is available?

In the United States, the majority of adults (90+%) get at least some news online via mobile or desktop, according to a Pew Research Center report. Folks who get their news exclusively from mobile devices will have to manually identify and prevent fake news; but if you use a computer to get your news, consider installing a fake news-related browser extension.

Put your browser to work!

There are many fake news browser extensions available, but two prominent ones are NewsGuard and Media Bias Fact Check. They may not be 100% accurate (or you may not agree with them 100%), but they do a wonderful job of flagging sources that are suspicious, biased, untrustworthy, etc.

The two browsers don’t compete with each other. Rather, they are great companions to each other.

NewsGuard

(The bulk of the text below about NewsGuard is derived from an article written by Carmen Redding, which was published in the November 2018 issue of the State Library’s “Flickertale” newsletter.)

Are you having trouble deciding if a website is sharing the truth? Well, NewsGuard, a news literacy program, has been launched with the support from Microsoft. Staffed by almost 40 reporters and dozens of freelancers, the NewsGuard team diligently examines thousands of websites based on nine widely-accepted, journalistic criteria designed to minimize human bias and subjectivity. The results determine a website’s rating.

Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard Technologies’ co-founders and co-CEOs, joined forces to give this program a human face rather than relying on algorithms to determine what we see. NewsGuard is the opposite of an algorithm. People with journalistic backgrounds are reviewing the sites. “Algorithms don’t call for comment,” says Brill. NewsGuard, on the other hand, gives plenty of explanation about their ratings.

NewsGuard works as a browser plug-in/ extension, giving credibility ratings to thousands of websites. A user simply downloads the extension on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. Sorry, Internet Explorer, users. If you are reading this, it is time for you to abandon IE and go with a much superior browser.

After the extension is added, the NewsGuard icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser. The rating icons will appear on websites, Google searches, and Facebook and Twitter when website articles are used.

George Washington

By hovering over the colored icon, a “Nutrition Label” appears. This label explains how NewsGuard decided the website’s rating. Ratings and label information are updated regularly, and whenever a site changes its practices, the icon will be adjusted accordingly.

Addicting Info

The NewsGuard website contains plenty of information, including a section dedicated to news literacy; and on this page, NewsGuard makes a compelling argument for libraries, educators, parents, etc. to add the browser extension to their computers.

The NewsGuard browser extension can be downloaded from their website: https://www.newsguardtech.com/

Media Bias Fact Check

According to their website, Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) was founded in 2015 and “is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting.” MBFC’s methodology and additional information are available on their website.

The MBFC browser extension is not as comprehensive as NewsGuard, but it does excel in one area that is more hidden on NewsGuard: bias. After the extension is added, the MBFC icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser.

When visiting a news-related website or reading an article, the browser extension will prominently display a color-coded icon indicating its bias (see image below for a list of the icons).

MBFC icons

Clicking on the icon will reveal more information about the source (see the slightly compressed image below).

Fox News

The Media Bias Fact Check browser extension is only available for Chrome (a Firefox version exists but it seems to be faulty). It can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.

Other promising browser extensions

With so much information coming at you everyday, it can be hard to figure out what is Real Journalism vs Fake News. While computers can’t tell you what’s true and what’s not, they can help provide information that will help you make that determination. FakerFact uses a machine learning algorithm we call Walt (named after Walter Cronkite). Walt has read millions of articles from sites all over the internet, and has been trained to detect relevant Fake News patterns. For example, Walt can tell you whether the web page you are viewing shares characteristics of articles that are typical of good journalism, opinion pieces, clickbait, conspiracy theories, or satire. Then you can make your own determination of whether you think the article is a valid and trustworthy news source or if it is Fake News.

SurfSafe gives you the power to find the source of misinformation and make informed decisions about what you are really reading. At the heart of every fake news story is an image that is likely doctored or taken out of context. SurfSafe uses the news sites you trust, along with fact checking pages and user reports as benchmarks for what images are considered “safe”. It’s simple – just hover over an image, and SurfSafe will classify the image as “safe”, “warning”, or “unsafe”. SurfSafe will also show you every instance of where the image in question has been seen before. You will be able to see if the context of image in the article has anything to do with the original instance. Not only can you protect yourself from fake news with SurfSafe, but you can also fight back. SurfSafe allows you to report suspicious images in order to help others surf safely.

Trusted News uses independent, transparent and neutral sources to assess news sites. We aim to help you cast a more critical eye over the news by rating for fake, questionable or trustworthy news. We do not intend any political bias. Using a simple notification system, the extension flags the trustworthiness of the site. Check at-a-glance if a site is reputable or not. Trusted News also highlights satirical and user-generated content. Clicking the Trusted News extension will provide more detailed information about a site.

YA Programming: Resources & NDLCC Standards

NDLCC Standards

Programming is a vital service that public libraries provide. Because of this, the North Dakota Library Coordinating Council (NDLCC) Standards for Public Libraries includes programming requirements. Consult the Standards for additional information.

Definition

So what exactly is a young adult program? Well, the federal definition (slightly reworded) is as follows:

Any planned event for which the primary audience is young adults (age 12-18) and which introduces the attendees to any of the broad range of library services or activities for young adults or which directly provides information to participants.

Young adult programs may cover use of the library, library services, or library tours. They programs may also provide cultural, recreational, or educational information, often designed to meet a specific social need.

Examples of young adult programs include board game nights, Nerf battles, video game tournaments, escape rooms, coding clubs, trivia, selfie contests, etc.

Young adult programs can be held on-site or off-site and be sponsored or co-sponsored by the library. Young adult programs sponsored by other groups that use library facilities are not considered a program of the library.

If young adult programs are offered as a series, each program in the series can be counted. For example, a coding club offered twice a month should be counted as 24 programs.

Resources

There are a lot of resources available online relating to library programming. It can be a little overwhelming to even know where to start. Below is a list of resources that make great starting points.

Young Adult Programming Resources:

General Resources (for all ages):

Duties of the Library Board & Library Director

The relationship between the library board and the director works best when each party’s roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and adhered to.

The board is primarily responsible for the big picture; the director administers the day to day operations of the library.

The chart below outlines the basic duties of the board and the director in relation to one another.

  Library Board Library Director
Bylaws Adopt bylaws for board procedures. Develop and review bylaws in consultation with board.
Staff Employ a competent and qualified director. Review the director’s organizational structure, identifying lines of authority and responsibility. Act as technical advisor for the board. Employ and supervise all other staff members. Make recommendations on organizational structure to the board.
Policy Determine and adopt written policies to govern the operation and program of the library. Recommend and draft policies for board action. Carry out adopted policies, delegating responsibilities to staff as needed.
Planning/ capital projects In cooperation with director and staff, develop a long-range plan for commitment of resources to meet the changing needs of the community. Work together with board and staff in preparation of a long-range plan by projecting needs and trends in library service.
Budget Review the annual budget to determine its adequacy for meeting goals and objectives. Work actively for public and official support. Explore all possible revenue sources. Prepare the annual budget draft to achieve objectives as identified with the board. Supply facts and figures to aid in interpreting the library’s financial needs. Attend budget hearings as a resource person.
Finance Review and approve monthly financial statements in context of the annual budget. Prepare and present monthly financial statements and bills for board action.
Public relations Establish, support, and participate in a planned public relations program. Interpret the library’s role and plans to other community boards and committees. Maintain an active program of public relations and public information. Represent the library on other community boards and committees.
Library legislation Know local and state laws. Actively support state and national library legislation. Know local and state laws. Keep board informed of pending legislation, library trends, developments, and standards.
Advocacy Report regularly to governing officials and the general public. Report regularly to the library board, local government officials, the general public, and the state library agency.

Adapted from:

  • Pearlmutter, Jane, and Paul Nelson. Small Public Library Management. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012. Print.

Additional Resources: